5. Dr. Myiesha Taylor — a Real-Life Doc McStuffins

15 Fiercest Sisters of 2017

Doc McStuffins mother is named after Dr. Myeisha Taylor. (Photo: Disney Jr.)

How do you get a major character named after you on one of Disney’s most beloved shows, “Doc McStuffins”? You stand up for black women in medicine whenever it’s needed, while using your healing gifts to combat the inequities in health care that harm people in some of the nation’s poorest communities. Or at least, that’s the approach of Myeisha Taylor, M.D., founder of the Artemis Medical Society, an organization created to support black women in medicine — and inspired by Doc McStuffins.

The Artemis Medical Society recently released a report, “Breaking Down Barriers,” detailing the challenges that women face in pursuing medical degrees and noting that women of color make up only 11.7 percent of active physicians in the United States.

15 Fiercest Sisters of 2017

Women of color make up only 11.7 percent of active physicians in the United States, the Artemis Medical Society points out in its new report.

From an early age, Dr. Taylor understood that certain things were just not right in America, especially when it came to the way that race and racism shaped, and often destroyed, life for so many black Americans. Tragically awakened to the need for social justice after her father was shot and killed 25 years ago during the protests that erupted after the Rodney King verdict, Dr. Taylor chose to use medicine to bring about positive change. She’s also found plenty of time to be an activist and to advocate for black women in medicine.

That’s why Dr. Taylor knew she had to do something, when she heard that a clueless (O.K., racist) flight attendant had questioned the credentials of an African-American female physician trying to come to the aid of a fellow passenger.  While on a Delta flight, Tamika Cross, M.D., a gynecologist, raised her hand when a passenger screamed for help and the airline staff called for a doctor onboard.

A dismissive flight attendant responded: “Oh no, Sweetie. Put your hand down. We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel. We don’t have time to talk to you.” She immediately turned to a white, male physician onboard.

Through the Artemis Medical Society, Dr. Taylor quickly fired off a letter to Delta’s CEO:

“In this present day we are shocked that there are individuals and corporations who continue to demonstrate beliefs that certain individuals are unable to be a physician simply because of their ethnicity and/or gender,” Dr. Taylor wrote. “Delta Air Lines, as an Atlanta-based corporation, should be acutely aware of the history of racism and sexism in our nation and how it continues to cast a long shadow in our society.”

It was a natural response as part of her work with Artemis, an organization founded in 2014 to mentor and support women physicians of color globally. The society has more than 3,700 members and representation in every major American city, extending to South Africa, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Caribbean.

Dr. Taylor joined other black female physicians in requesting an investigation of the incident and starting a viral movement with the hashtag #WhataDoctorLooksLike. Delta agreed to comply. At the very least, with Dr. Taylor’s help, we can hope that the next time a black woman physician answers a call for help on a flight, she is met with the dignity and respect she deserves. And that’s why Doc McStuffin’s calls her mom Myiesha — like Dr. Taylor’s real-life children who are also interested in medicine or veterinary science.